I have been French living for a month now!! I don’t wear a béret or smoke like the French, but I do introduce myself as “Bree, comme le fromage”. Every week I have some red wine, there is normally always a baguette on the dinner table, and cheese is present at every meal. Bonjour and ça va leave my mouth a million times a day, and I am growing more comfortable exchanging le bisou with people I have just met. Day by day I am understanding a little bit more, and I don’t always have to rehearse the french lines in my head before I say them…
My grammar class that I have Monday-Friday from 9-12 is wonderful! The 17 people vary from ages 18-50, and all nationalities (Korean, Chinese, Syrian, Ukrainian, Algerian, Vietnamese, Malaysian, 1 other American!) My professor is kind and patient, and everyone is so encouraging. We understand the difficulties that the others are going through with the language. We are all struggling to understand this language that doesn’t sound anything like the way it is written. There are so many French words that are cognates of English words, but I’m hopeless with the pronunciation at the moment. Many times I have been speaking to someone, and I say a wonderful sentence that I am so proud of, yet I pronounce it the English way, and so I am only rewarded with a blank stare. But this is how I am learning!
Each Friday, I and some people from my class get a coffee and stroll around the city for an hour or two!
Leisure is key in French life. Most things shut down for an hour or two at lunch everyday. About everything is closed on Sunday. It is normal for people to take 30min or hour breaks in the day for a coffee. At each meal, people take their time to enjoy each others company, to share their day, to enjoy the wonderful food they are sharing together. Phones are a rarity when you are with other people. Even at bars, clubs, and concerts the phones aren’t taken out. If there is an awkward moment, it isn’t avoided by phone screen, it is just endured and laughed at. It is refreshing to be in culture where conversation is an art, even if I can only understand a bit of that art at the moment.
The French are definitely not the German. Nothing is exactly on time: my class normally starts at 9:05-9:10, a 15 minute break almost always turns into 25-30 mins. I went to a concert last week with my American friend, Taylor, that was said to start at “11pm”, but they meant the French 11pm. This was a Friday night, but I was already thinking, “Hmm that is really late, it probably won’t last that long.” We were invited by some French guys, and they had said to meet them at a bar a little after 11, so I was thinking, “Okay, we are just going to be fashionably late.” Taylor and I went to the bar around 11:15, waited for the guys for 20 minutes, but they weren’t there. We both have opted for the cheap way of only using wifi with our phones, so there was no way to contact the guys. We decided around 11:40 to go ahead and make our way to the concert, we didn’t want to miss the entire thing! It was almost an hour past the start of the concert when we got to the venue, rang the bell, and were told that it wasn’t open yet, come back in an hour… Eventually, we met up with the guys and went to the concert, but it wasn’t until almost 1:30am and raged till 6am.
The concert featured this DJ, known as Pablo. The music is classified as chillstep (never heard of it before), but it was amazing, kept people dancing nonstop for 5+hours! Everyone there was a devoted fan of Pablo’s, they were so absorbed in the music, only concentrating on the beat, and not paying attention to anything else. This is how one guy described it to me: “Pablo’s music is my drug, and I am addicted.” And so I danced for 4 hours to this addictive music without a care, and it was amazing.
French living is rich and filling. Each day I’m exhausted mentally and physically from the copious amount of learning and walking that occurs. But it is so good. I have deep conversations (those are still occurring in English), comprehend fast sentences in French (it is magical when my brain understands some of this language), meet new people, see new things, and I love it. One month down of this unbreeliveable journey, and it is only getting better!
A few more photos of my French living:
The hill I walk down and up several times a day (getting those muscles)
A day trip to Lyon (city an hour away) for a food festival! It is like a mini Paris! They had porta-potties that were very clean and smelled like woodchips!
The church is one in Saint Etienne, where I live. Found some nachos at a Mexican bar, and they were a tiny taste of heaven! Art museum finds. And the last photo is from another concert, where they loved their fog machine a tad too much.
Thanks for reading, I’m so happy to share a little bit of what this study abroad thing is like!